SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 1099 Hell's Belles, by Jackie Kessler Book Review |

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Hell's Belles, by Jackie Kessler
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 11/12/2007
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 3 out of 10

Hell's Belles, by Jackie Kessler

Book Review by Mike Swope

Have you read this book?

A succubus, self-described as one of Hell's best, is on the run from the Devil himself, with several powerful demons hot on her heels, and she escapes to the human realm and, with the help of a witch, assumes an undetectable but desirable human form, and takes a job as a stripper. Dangerous! Sexy! Lots of opportunity!

Unfortunately, I expected more from such an interesting setup. This book is clearly written for those readers who enjoy nothing more than the same old standard romance with a few thinly veiled supernatural pretenses thrown in. Nothing scary or threatening about the book at all. No scary dreams afterwards. No Hannibal Lecters.

The cast of character types resembles the same found in any romance, only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Jezebel (aka Jesse) has run away from Hell because of some misunderstanding that in the end proves to be nothing of any real consequence or danger, it just feels to her as though it has some great weight about it. She takes on human form thru earthly magic to hide from bounty hunters, has a few run ins with old demonic friends, meets a handsome vice cop named Paul who grieves for his dead fiance, falls in love with him, etc. Opposite Jesse is Paul, her white knight. He is immediately attracted to Jesse, despite his great love for his dead fiance, and within days is hopelessly in love with Jesse. Of course, by the end, Paul and Jesse are lovers in every sense of the word. Despite the familiar story line and paranormal trappings, Jesse is like every other female lead in every other romance novel. Her reactions are exactly those of the typical heroine in romances. These characteristics alone are likely to entice romance lovers to give this book a try. They won't be disappointed.

The back story for this book is distracting. Though it is necessary for the author to better understand the character of Jesse and explain why Jesse flees Hell, it isn't necessary for readers. The back story is broken into long, uninteresting, geographical segments which interrupt the present story. In fact, I tended to skim over these segments to get back to the real story. These segments don't propel the story being told. Ms. Kessler attempts to show readers her interpretation of Hell thru Jesse's eyes, but these lengthy passages, in the end, don't reveal anything about Jesse's character, and therefore leave only a vague fog in the reader's mind. For the most part, the back story segments seem more self-gratifying for the author than satisfying for the reader. Most readers, I suspect, will skim them as I have and then promptly forget them.

This isn't to say that the whole back story is unnecessary. I believe it could be reduced to a prologue, a single chapter, so it doesn't interrupt the story proper. Or only the absolute essentials could be revealed by the characters' interactions and conversations as the story unfolds. Readers of this book are not likely to care about the layout of Hell, only what has happened there to cause Jesse to escape, the strength and powers of the demons who seek to return her to Hell to answer for what has happened, and what is about to happen now as the story progresses.

With a setup such as we have with Hell's Belles, it would seem anything could happen. In fact, it is the potential in this book keeps readers turning pages, not for the story that is told, but for the story that MIGHT be told. Jezebel should have an insatiable appetite for sex. Who and how many will she seduce? Being from Hell, she must have some very powerful, frightening friends, and even scarier, blood-thirsty bounty hunters searching for her, too. When will they appear and what will happen then? Are all the strippers at the club succubi? What racy scene will we find? How will Jezebel survive the demons who stand between her and freedom? Who will get hurt? Will anyone die? Sex and horror, or the potential for them, clearly sells this book. And will also sell the next in the series, "The Road to Hell."

With Hell's Belles, Ms. Kessler has begun to develop an interesting world with interesting characters. Jezebel is witty and flippant, with a flair for turning an ironic phrase. Daun (short for Daunuan), Jezebel's incubus acquaintance, f**k buddy, and friend (or foe? -- we wonder). Their scenes are among the best in the book. Ms. Kessler's writing, regardless of this book's back story, is also surprisingly entertaining. If Ms. Kessler takes herself or her first-person succubus too seriously, readers can't tell. One can only imagine the fun Ms. Kessler had writing this book.

For some readers, there isn't enough sex or danger in this book to fulfill the promises of the title and the potential of the characters for some readers.

On the other hand, for most romance aficionados, there is enough romance to satisfy.
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